Morgan’s hair was streaked pink and blue and blonde that morning. It looked like cotton candy or bubble gum or birthday party streamers. Cal had seen her the day before when her hair had been all one color – bright red, but still one color. He would’ve been more surprised if her hair stayed the same color for longer than a week than he was at seeing this new cacophony of color.
He could have the same conversation he’d had with her back when they’d met in college – that she was too old to be doing things like that; that she wasn’t a skater punk. Nine years later, he’d long given up on that and gotten used to her eccentric hair. Maybe he’d even grown to like it.
“How’s the research going?” Cal asked. He flipped through a notebook with hand-written diagrams and symbols and scribbles of things he only barely or partially understood.
“Decent,” she said. “I was up until three trying to make sense of Martin’s notes, but I just don’t get this neuroscience stuff.”
“What’s decent about that?”
“I don’t think we have to understand it to get Kytara to function at a basic level.”
“Martin’s research was pivotal to understanding any of this,” Cal said, gesticulating at the server cluster behind her. “Kytara is dead in the water without him.”
“Not necessarily,” Morgan said, shuffling through another notebook that she’d seemingly pulled out of nowhere. She stopped on a page and her face lit up. “Ah, here it is.” She handed the notebook to him.
“Kytara…revision…99…” Cal looked up from the page. “What does this say? Martin’s handwriting looks like chickenshit.”
“Neuralware unnecessary for Kytara project. Revision three of Kytara OS software with standard neuralware has 99.5% probability of compatibility.”
Cal froze. “You’re kidding me.”
Morgan shrugged and pointed at the words in the notebook. “Martin said it, not me.”
“How could standard neuralware possibly handle that much throughput? The synapse translation algorithm would burn a hole in your head.”
“I don’t know, but Martin’s notes from the few days preceding his death show that he definitely thought he was on to something.” Morgan grabbed a datacard off of the desk and handed it to Cal. “Check out the one that smells like coffee.”
“All of Martin’s files smell like coffee.”
“Not on that card,” she said, making a face.
Cal took the card and held it flat against his fingers. The data instantly transmitted to Cal’s neuralware and assigned the proper receptors to each file. Some were named like traditional computer files, such as “March 12th research data.” Other bits of data only had smells or colors or warmth.
“Fuck, everything on this card smells like pot,” Cal said. “Was he doing all of his work stoned?”
Morgan shrugged. “Probably.”
Cal continued sifting through the data until he finally found the only one that smelled like coffee. It was lukewarm and held no identifiable data other than the standard timestamps from its inception and modification.
He opened it up and took a look at its contents.
“Saw the part about data streamlining?”
Cal flipped the datacard around in his hand and held it out to Morgan. “The entire thing was about data streamlining.”
“I mean the part that’s relevant to Kytara.”
Cal grinned. “I know.”
“So what’d you think?”
“If we can seriously solve this with code rather than beefier hardware in our heads, we’d be 100 years ahead of anyone else on the planet.”
“They already have functioning AI in a few of the western European states,” Morgan said.
“Yeah, but have you ever tried one of those? They are artificial, and they are intelligent, but they’re intelligent on the level of an orangutan or a dolphin. If the Kytara project bears fruit, we’ll have an AI that’s intelligent at or beyond a human-like level.”
Cal pulled a datacard out of his pocket and bent the corner, simultaneously activating a fingerprint encryption algorithm.
“Got something on there you don’t want me to see?”
Cal grinned. “Maybe.”
Morgan reached out and flattened her fingers on the half of the card that Cal wasn’t touching. There was only one file she could access. Cal had turned the rest of them into gibberish – smells and colors and letters that had no meaning whatsoever until they were decrypted.
“What is this? An awkward proof of the Sullivan Construct Theorem?”
Cal laughed. “Look closer.”
Morgan arched an eyebrow and further examined the data. This file was mostly text, a few pictures, and a poorly recorded video in measly 4k resolution. Normally, this data would’ve taken hours to sift through, but with the neuralware reading the datacard and dumping it directly into her brain, it took only a few seconds. The only thing that really took time was analyzing the data.
“No, no way. You wrote this?” Morgan asked.
Cal nodded. “Martin suggested that I do some research on some data of his – the video and pictures that you just saw – and that’s what I came up with.”
Morgan stared awestruck and dumbfounded. “You reproved the Sullivan Construct Theorem using Calloway computational standards after adding a feature shell and removing a complexity layer?”
“I did,” Cal said, flattening the corner of the card by pressing his finger against it, simultaneously decrypting the entirety of the data on the card. “Check the rest of the data.” Cal let go of the card. She took it out of his hand and analyzed it for a few moments.
“That magnificent son of a bitch…” Morgan gasped. “He had us each working on complementary halves of the same puzzle.”
“It appears that way.”
“How did he know? And why didn’t he tell us?”
“I don’t know,” Cal said, “But if we’re right…if Martin was right…this is the beginning of a new software age.”